Narratives of making: modes of articulating tacit knowledge
Lambert, Ian Richard
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This practice-based thesis aims to inform ways of narrating making in the advancement of epistemologies, ontologies and practice itself for maker-researchers and educators. With reference to Robin Nelson’s (2013) multi-mode practice-as-research model, the thesis explores the ephemeral qualities of making. The thesis contests an existing view that the challenge for the maker-researcher is that tacit knowledge should be made explicit (Friedman, 2000). The thesis gives an alternative proposition that to make tacit knowledge explicit is not always a gain in comprehension for maker-researchers, students or practitioners. It adds to the argument that non-explicit signifiers arising from meticulous documentation can be more (or at least equally) effective in making ideas and experiential knowledge communicable and tangible for maker-researchers (Ingold, 2013; Janik, 1990; Johannessen, 1988; Nelson 2013; Polanyi, 1966). The increased capability to make industrial objects with more easily distributed resources and processes has advanced debates around narrative and process in the design research agenda. Making in design has resurged in the last decade (Frayling, 2011a; Newson, Suggett & Sudjic 2017), further refining its own epistemology in knowledge-creation, criticality, and the crystallisation of ideas, (Anttila 2009; Dunnigan, 2013; Harrod, 2015; Ingold, 2009, 2013, 2015; Kettley, 2010, 2016; Lehmann, 2012; Luscombe, 2017; Marchand, 2010a; 2010b; Nelson, 2013; Ratto, 2011, 2016; Risatti, 2007). Following a literature review on making, the thesis turns to reflecting on a heuristic exploration involving sand casting as a practice-based methodology used by the author, and with others in workshops. The practice informs an ontological and epistemological debate on the generative value of an improvised making experience (Ingold & Hallum, 2008; Peters, 2009) and to what extent process has ascended outcome in the focus of making-as-research. The practice-as-research makes the following contributions to maker-led design: (i) tacit knowledge can be appropriately articulated in non-explicit modes; (ii) improvisation is a highly generative methodological mode of making-as-research, that ascends process over outcome; (iii) ephemerality is a vital quality in the ontology and epistemology of making-as-research.